In the early 1990s, the Caspian oil exploration was like a high-ante, high-stakes game of poker with several rounds of draw and a large (but unknown) number of wild cards. A lot of the players frankly acted like cowboys shooting from the hip, and there was a lot of bluffing as well. It was, moreover, a "table stakes" game: if you couldn't meet the level of the bet when it came your turn to call, you had to clear out or find some kind of collateral, usually by signing an IOU to another player who would back you and split any winnings. This is why consortia were established: to pool resources and intelligence.
Continue reading "The Changing Nature of the Caspian Oil Game" »
At the end of this summer, the Kazakhstani government is scheduled to reach a decision on the export route for Tengiz oil. Of course, in the AIOC main-export-pipeline tradition, it could decide to postpone the decision. Still, it is instructive to review the options. There are a number of possible routes. The principal ones are the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) line projected across southern Russia, the gigantic project eastwards into western China (and supposedly further east) signed with the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC), undersea to Baku and out through Ceyhan, and south through Iran. This is an involved issue.
Continue reading "Tengiz Oil in Search of a Pipeline" »
The problem the AIOC has in the short term is the opposite of the one that everyone has been talking about in the long term. In the long term, the general opinion is that there will be a problem is finding enough oil to fill the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline if it is built. In the short term, the problem is finding enough pipelines to take its oil production exported from Baku.
Continue reading "The AIOC Has a Problem but Not the One You Think" »